Rangers conduct an aerial search of a climber on Denali in Alaska | world news

By MARK THIESSEN, Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska National Park rangers resumed an aerial search Friday for the first recorded mountain climber of the year on North America’s highest peak after he failed to check in with a friend.

Because it’s so early in the climbing season, Matthias Rimml, a 35-year-old professional mountain guide from Tyrol, Austria, is alone on the top of Denali, a 20,310-foot (6,190-meter) mountain ) about 240 miles (386 kilometers) north of Anchorage. The climbing season generally runs from May to mid-July.

Other climbers and rangers camp below the 14,000 foot (4,267 meter) level.

Rimml is not considered behind schedule for his return date and food and fuel supplies, according to a statement from Denali National Park and Preserve Thursday.

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However, a friend who received periodic recordings from Rimml contacted the mountaineers guards on Tuesday after not receiving a call for days, the statement said.

Park officials say Rimml was already acclimated to the altitude due to recent climbs. He planned to climb Denali “alpine style” or travel fast with light gear. His goal was to reach the summit in five days even if he carried enough fuel and food to last 10 days.

The average Denali expedition is 17 to 21 days for a round trip, with climbers reaching the summit on day 12 or 13, according to the National Park Service.

Rimml began his ascent on April 27 from Kahiltna Glacier Base Camp at 7,200 feet (2,194 meters), officials said.

His last known call to his friend was on April 30, when he reported that he was tired but not in distress.

Rimml reported its location just below Denali Pass at 18,200 feet (5,547 meters) in the western foothills, the most popular route for Denali climbers.

On Wednesday, a pilot and a ranger in a National Park Service helicopter searched for Rimml. The intermittent clouds did not permit a thorough search, but they saw no sign of him.

They saw his tent at 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) but observed no recent activity, the statement said. High winds and bad weather prevented the helicopter from landing at the campsite, but the helicopter returned on Thursday when the weather was better. Rangers confirmed Rimml did not return to the tent.

Clouds prevented the helicopter from flying above 17,200 feet (5,243 meters) on Thursday, but park spokeswoman Maureen Gualtieri told The Associated Press that a helicopter with two rangers on board had taken off Friday morning from Talkeetna, the nearest community, to resume the search.

Weather on the mountain has been cold, which park officials say is normal for this time of year. Daytime highs were around minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit (-3.89 degrees Celsius) with winds at both base camps registering up to 30 mph (48 km/h). Five inches (13 centimeters) of fresh snow fell last week on the high mountain.

On his guide company’s website, Rimml said he’s always been close to the mountains and nature.

He trained as a carpenter after graduating from high school. In 2015, after completing his military service, Rimml became a freelance ski instructor in Austria and outside Europe.

He became a professional mountain guide in 2015, the fourth generation in his family to do so, his bio states. His specialty is long and technically difficult combination tours.

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